Working on a project that helps individuals settle and, as we say, ‘land softly’ in a new city is challenging during these times. As coordinator of Delft MaMa’s Soft Landing in Delft (SLiDe) programme, I had many new ideas for the programme at the start of 2020. I wanted to give it a fresh start with new meetups and events for both mentors and mentees. However, with COVID 19, it slowly became evident these things were not going to happen, apart from virtually.
Making a match
It was then rather pleasing to be able to create a match between a mentor and a mentee. This was challenging during the pandemic. Yet it is the most important time to reach out to individuals to help them feel less isolated and more settled in a new city.
I am happy to share here a story of a mentee, Isabel, and her mentor, Melanie. Isabel reached out to me at SLiDe, having recently moved to Delft with a baby. Melanie, a Delft local, also contacted me to join the mentor programme to provide local insight to newcomers. Read on for more about Isabel and Melanie’s own experience of the SLiDe programme and of working together.
Melanie’s story as a mentor
Melanie: Delft MaMa has been a well-known name for years in my life. At first, I thought it was just for expats. Then, late last year, a friend of mine, who is an expat and a DMM volunteer, invited me to join a DMM workshop. In January 2020, following the workshop, I learnt about the activities of DMM and SLiDe. I got excited to become a SLiDe mentor. And, at the beginning of August, I received a phone call from Agashnee: a lady, Isabel, from Guatemala, wanted a mentor, a local one. Was I still interested in being a mentor?
‘Yes!’ I said.
From there, Agashnee gave me some instructions on what is expected from a mentor. And when I had questions, Agashnee was always open to answer and help me out. Although we never met, the communication was open and clear.
What really helped me were the “contract/guidelines” that explained what was expected from the mentor and from the mentee. In short, six meetings, questions relating only to information about schools, sports, shops and so on. Meet in public, not in your home. These guidelines were very helpful also for protection for both parties. It sometimes may happen that personal things occur beyond your power, but then you can offer to talk to someone else, or you can talk about it after the six meetings.
To honour the programme and the policy of DMM is important because, as a mentor, you represent SLiDe and DMM.
Connecting and learning
Isabel and I connected well. Although I am older and have older children, she was happy to meet me. Our first walk was a city tour, to show Isabel how Delft is connected between the “old” and “new”. Isabel was eager to learn and I also learned things from her. That is the great thing, because she sees Delft in a different way than I do and, although I have lived in Delft already for more than 20 years, I discovered new things too. I discovered that I don’t need to know everything in order to mentor someone. I learnt about how things have changed over the years, about Isabel’s culture and how it differs from Dutch culture.
Isabel and I looked for ways to meet despite the restrictions of COVID. And I think that is very important. Because to break through the loneliness of being at home all the time, we all need to exercise in some way. And we can help each other.
“Being a mentor works both ways“Melanie, SLiDe mentor
I had a great time and am already looking forward to mentoring again. The research I undertook to answer the questions did me good too. Being a mentor works both ways. So, overall, it was a good experience for me.
Isabel’s story as a mentee
Isabel: Moving is stressful! Even more stressful is to move to a different city or a different country where they speak a different language. You don’t know the people or the neighbourhood. Or where the supermarket is, or where to find the best place to buy clothes or to drink a cup of coffee.
That is what I felt when I moved to Delft. At least in the beginning. I was alone in the city while my husband went to work every morning until late in the afternoon. So, I started looking for a programme or a group of people where I could hang out and make friends. I found SLiDe on Delft MaMa’s website and sent in my information. A few days later, Agashnee called me and we had an amazing chat. She was so kind to match me with one of the mentors in the programme, and we met a couple of weeks after that.
Meeting during COVID was a little bit tricky. Fortunately, Melanie, my mentor, knew exactly where to meet so we could talk all about living in Delft and where to find all the things I needed. During our six meetings, Melanie explained very well the things I didn’t know. Things like how the education system works, how to get around Delft and where to find the best shops. We also talked about the medical system, how to find a babysitter, a pet-sitter and how to choose the best option depending on my preferences.
When the COVID restrictions tightened, Melanie suggested we could have our meetings by walking around Delft. This was a great idea because I could see Delft from another perspective. We walked and talked. Melanie answered every question I had regarding living, not only in Delft, but in the Netherlands, and about the differences between my culture and theirs. This was perfect for me because when you come from another country, you want to fit into the society you are living in now. To achieve that, you have to understand the reasons how or why things are done.
An excellent opportunity
I must say I am very happy that I found SLiDe and what it offered: the experience of meeting a local mentor who taught me very well all I needed to know and who made me feel welcome in the neighbourhood. I recommend it to anyone who is coming from another city or another country. If you are an expat, this is an excellent opportunity to feel comfortable in your new home.
A final word from agashnee
If you are keen to help support fellow newcomers and would like to join the SLiDe programme as a mentor, or would like more information as a potential mentee, please do get in touch with me, Agashnee, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking forward to creating more successful partnerships and sharing of valuable information between mentors and mentees.
Agashnee is a speech and language therapist with 18 years of experience in a range of children’s communication difficulties. She has been working with and assisting international families throughout her career. Agashnee was born in South Africa and she came to the Netherlands by way of the UK. As a speech therapist and children’s yoga and mindfulness instructor, Agashnee wishes for each family to celebrate their child’s success in communication and enjoy the learning journey. Being an expat herself she is passionate about her work with Delft MaMa.